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What I read in February. Special emphasis on Black History Month, with famous books by James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Chinua Achebe and John Howard Griffin. Of interest to political bloggers are the first and last entries, Superfreakonomics and Max Blumenthal's wonderful Republican Gomorrah.

The Angel is in the Details: SuperFreakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner :
There was chaos in the big cage, with twelve coins on the floor and seven monkeys going after them. When Chen and the other researchers went inside to get the coins, the monkeys wouldn’t give them up. After all, they had learned that the coins had value. So the humans resorted to bribing the capuchins with treats. This taught the monkeys another valuable lesson: crime pays.
Then, out of the corner of  his eye, Chen saw something remarkable. One monkey, rather than handing his coin over to the humans for a grape or a slice of apple, instead approached a second monkey and gave it to her. Chen had done earlier research in which monkeys were found to be altruistic. Had he just witnessed an unprompted act of monkey altruism?
After a few seconds of grooming—BAM!—the two capuchins were having sex.
What Chen had seen wasn’t altruism at all, but rather the first instance of monkey prostitution in the recorded history of science.
And then, just to prove how thoroughly the monkeys had assimilated the concept of money, as soon as the sex was over (it had lasted about eight seconds; they were monkeys, after all) the capuchin who had received the coin promptly brought it over to Chen to purchase some grapes.

I love, love, love the Freakonomics books.  I’ve loved them ever since the day Levitt and Dubner managed to reduce the fringe right and the fringe left to incoherent screaming at the same time with a well-supported hypothesis that Roe v. Wade had directly led to lower crime rates in the 1990s by reducing the population of unwanted slum children who grew up to be violent criminals.

Levitt and Dubner have a way of turning conventional wisdom on its head as they explore the intended and unintended consequences of various incentives in a way that somehow makes the world look bigger and funnier with every page and makes the reader THINK.  Chapters have riddle titles like "Why is a street prostitute like a department store Santa?" and "Why should suicide bombers buy life insurance?"  And yes, there are real, sensible answers to those questions. Not to mention, this is the first piece of writing I’ve read by ANYBODY that has given me grounds to be hopeful that mankind will solve the Global climate change problem before the human race wipes out all life on Earth.  That peace of mind alone is worth the price of the book.  Very highest recommendations.

Reinforcing the Stereotypes: Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin :
"He’s very intense, isn’t he?" she said. I was staring at the dark mound of the Senate, which ended our dark, slightly uphill street.
"Who is?"
"Giovanni. He’s certainly very fond of you."
"He’s Italian," I said. "Italians are theatrical."
"Well, this one," she laughed, "must be special, even in Italy! How long have you been living with him?"
"A couple of months." I threw away my cigarette. "I ran out of money while you were away—you know, I’m still waiting for money—and I moved in with him because it was cheaper. At that time he had a job and was living with his mistress most of the time."
"Oh?" she said. "He has a mistress?"
"He had a mistress," I said. "He also had a job. He’s lost both."
"Poor boy," she said. "No wonder he looks so lost."

You never know what you’re going to get. The first of four books by or about blacks that I picked turned out to be about a white bisexual man in Paris, behaving badly as he carries on with two partners—one of each gender—without telling either of them about the other.  The scenes between the two men are excruciating. The men—especially Giovanni—are portrayed as promiscuous, self-centered, self-destructive and offensively effeminate, which doesn’t necessarily prove that homosexual relationships tend to be that way, any more than a story about a man who is a misogynist jerk proves that most or all men are that way. But it doesn’t do much to promote understanding and tolerance either. I was stunned to learn later that Giovanni’s Room is considered a cult classic in some gay circles. I would have thought the politically correct GBLTQ activist community would be pissed off.  A couple of older, gay characters are worse than the main male-male couple, and are portrayed as libertines and near-pedophiles, while the one major female role is manipulative and neurotic. As with most books where there isn’t even one likable character, I found it rough going and a disappointment. Fortunately, it’s short.  For Baldwin, stick with The Fire Next Time.    

Good Girl Saving Herself: The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett:
For two or three minutes he stood looking round him, while Mary watched him, and then he began to walk about softly, even more lightly than Mary had walked the first time she had found herself inside the four walls. His eyes seemed to be taking in everything--the gray trees with the gray creepers climbing over them and hanging from their branches, the tangle on the walls and among the grass, the evergreen alcoves with the stone seats and tall flower urns standing in them.
"I never thought I'd see this place," he said at last, in a whisper.
"Did you know about it?" asked Mary.
She had spoken aloud and he made a sign to her.
"We must talk low," he said, "or some one'll hear us an' wonder what's to do in here."
"Oh! I forgot!" said Mary, feeling frightened and putting her hand quickly against her mouth. "Did you know about the garden?" she asked again when she had recovered herself.
Dickon nodded.
"Martha told me there was one as no one ever went inside," he answered. "Us used to wonder what it was like."

This one and The Color Purple were among The Redhead’s list of very favorite books, as was Anne of Green Gables (book post, March 2009).

The Secret Garden is allegorical all the way. It’s about a girl who is left fallow by parents who don’t care about her, and who are out of the story completely by the end of chapter one.  Mary, the heroine, is pointedly plain in looks and disposition for want of anyone to encourage her otherwise, by the time she is sent to live in an old manor house somewhere in the vicinity of Wuthering Heights, to be looked after by Quasimodo and his servant Mrs. Danvers, or so they appear on the surface.

The house has many rooms (gosh, where have I heard that before?), and a large number of walled gardens, one of which was locked, the key buried, and the door made to disappear following the death of Quasi’s wife. Mary, bored to tears and forbidden by Mrs. Danvers to explore the house and discover where the mysterious ticking crying noise is coming from, sets about to find the garden. I reckon it won’t be much of a spoiler to hint that she eventually finds the hidden garden and that, as she cultivates it, she begins to become cultivated herself.

I had to take a brief break for an insulin shot when the magical anthropomorphic robin befriended her, but aside from that, it was a moving book with a lot to say about digging out the weeds and making good things grow, inside and out.  Definitely not just for young girls.

Walk This Way: Arrowsmith, by Sinclair Lewis :
Except by their ages, it was impossible to tell the daughters apart. They were all bouncing, all blond, all pretty, all eager, all musical, and not merely pure but clamorously clean-minded. They all belonged to the Congregational Sunday School, the YWCA, or the Camp fire Girls; they were all fond of nitpicking, and they could all of them, except the five year old twins, quote practically without error the newest statistics showing the evils of alcohol.
"Mrs. Pickerbaugh and I have trained them to sing together, both in the home and publicly, and as an organization we call them the Healthette Octette."
"Really?" said Leora, when it was apparent that Martin had passed beyond speech.
"Yes, and before I get through with it, I hope to popularize the name Healthette from end to end of this old nation, and you’re going to see bands of happy women going around spreading their winged message into every dark corner. Healthette bands! Beautiful and pure minded and enthusiastic and good basketball players! I tell you, they’ll make the lazy and willful stir their stumps! They’ll shame the filthy livers and filthy talkers into decency! I’ve already worked out a poem-slogan for the Healthette Bands. Would you like to hear it?"

Winsome young womanhood wins with a smile
Boozers, spitters and gamblers from things that are vile.
Our parents and teachers have explained the cause of life
So against the evil-minded we’ll also make strife.
We’ll shame them, reclaim them, from bad habits, you bet!
Better watch out, Mr. Loafer, I am a Healthette!

Douglas Adams was wrong. The Earth-poetry to rival the Vogons was not penned in England by ladies with three names, but by Midwestern Elks, Masons, Chambers of Commerce, and other booster clubs and service organization chairs who thought they were Yeats. The Bruno Kirby character in Good Morning Vietnam was cut from their cloth. Sinclair Lewis must have grown up surrounded by these Yayhoos..he captures their essence perfectly, and his satire is at its by-golly zingiest when he’s poking fun at them.

Arrowsmith follows the life of a doctor from Med School to North Dakota village practice to Iowa town practice to a big clinic in New York, and all the pitfalls, annoyances, and conflicts between scientific research and commercialism in every venue.  There are chalk outlines visible where it misses the mark. Since the Babbits Lewis wants to satire don’t lend themselves to the discipline and intelligence needed to make it as a doctor, the plot gets turned jarringly to allow encounters with, for example, Pickerbaugh and the "Healthette Octette". Further, the conflict is helped along by giving Arrowsmith and his brilliant mentor Gottleib practically zero social skills, so that when, for example, the Bakers Association resists Arrowsmith’s attempts to regulate unhygenic pie-making conditions, they are more than able to turn the masses against him because he alienates everybody.  Still, the book overall is a masterpiece, featuring a wide panorama of American life, a good picture of early 20th century medical practice, and a fun house mirror held up to the bad things that happen when Palinists are given more influence than actual experts.

Little White Sambo: Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin :
In such places, where all of a man’s time is spent just surviving, he rarely knows what it means to read a great book. He has grown up and now sees his children grow up in squalor. His wife usually earns more money than he. He is thwarted in his need to be ftaher of the household. When he looks at his children and his home, he feels the guilt of not having given them something better. His only salvation is not to give a damn finally, or else he will fall into despair. In despair, a man’s sense of virtue is dulled. He no longer cares. He will do anything to escape it—steal or commit acts of violence—or perhaps try to lose himself in sensuality. Most often the sex-king is just a poor devil trying to prove the manhood that his whole existence denies. This is what the whites call the ‘sorry nigger’. Soon he will either desert his home or become so unbearable that he is kicked out. This leaves the mother to support her children alone. To keep food in their bellies, she has to spend most of her time away from them, working. This leaves the children in the streets, prey to any sight, any conversation, any sexual experiment that comes along to make their lives more interesting or pleasurable. To a young girl who has nothing, has never known anything, the baubles she can get—both in a kind of crude affection and in gifts or money—by granting sex to a man or boy appeal to her as toys to a child. She gets pregnant sometimes and then the vicious cycle is given impetus. In some instances the mother cannot make enough to support the children, so she sells her sex for what she can get. This gets easier and easier until she comes up with still another child to abort or support. But none of this is ‘Negro-ness.’

My second ‘Black history month’ selection, this one was written by a white man who tinted his skin dark and spent six weeks in the Deep South, in 1959. And boy did he ever see ugliness.

Griffin learned to endure the "hate stare", in which a complete stranger looks at you as though it’s an outrage that you’re allowed to exist and breathe the same air, or alternatively, as though you’re an object that does not, in fact, exist as a person.  He hitched rides with a succession of white people who all seemed to want to talk about his unnatural sex urges, and he was kept out of restaurants, theaters, libraries, and even park benches.  And then he published his experiences and was hanged in effigy and called a traitor to his race.

This is one experience that, it seems to me, had to be experienced by a lifelong white and written from his perspective, in order for whites to understand what it is to be "the other".  Sure, the descendants of Griffin’s antagonists are now trying to create a similar apartheid for gays, liberals  and non-Christians...but they haven’t done it yet, and even if they did, a GBLTQ or an atheist has the option to pass for Republican just by not speaking or giving evidence of thought. Race can’t ordinarily be hidden, which is why race bigotry succeeded in being so total, so all-exclusive. Their status was instantly visible, even to someone whose only brain was located where he sat.  

A white can learn something from listening to the experiences of blacks, but he can only really understand it from someone who has also experienced white privileges, taken them for granted, and then seen what life is like without them. And, as today’s radio talk show hosts and teabaggers remind me, this is not just history. There are people who long for the days when they could exclude, spit at, and even murder people different from themselves in a consequence-free environment.  Read Black Like Me and ask yourself which side you are on.

Black and the Blues: The Color Purple, by Alice Walker  :
Oh, she say. God love all them feelings. That's some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves 'em you enjoys 'em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that's going, and praise God by liking what you like.
God don't think it dirty? I ast.
Naw, she say. God made it. Listen, God love everything you love--and a mess of stuff you don't. But, more than anything else, God love admiration.
You saying God vain? I ast.
Naw, she say. Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.
What it do when it pissed off? I ast.
Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.

The third of the books recommended to me by The Redhead, and one very different from Frances Burnett and LM Montgomery.  At least one friend of mine threw it away with a shriek of agony after three pages and never picked it up again.  Small wonder. The opening scenes involve Celie the heroine being raped and impregnated repeatedly by her father, the children being taken away and not seen again,her mother dying, her sister running away rather than face an arranged marriage, and then the narrator being given in arranged marriage instead.  Her new husband, who has kids of his own from a previous relationship, and who expects Celie to look after them. He taunts her: You pore. You black. You ugly. You a woman...you got NOTHING! My sister in law assured me that it would get better. I thought, with the bar that low, how could it not?

And yes, it does. In the beginning, purple represents shiners and bruises, mostly given to the female characters by men. Later, when the women start to get together (and have hot lesbian sex!), it represents the flowers in the field as quoted above, little things put there by "God" so that even those brought lower than low can find some enjoyment. The secret to living is finding those things and remembering to, in fact, enjoy them.

Once again, I'm an old fuddy duddy who gets surprised that a book like this, with coarse language and violent incest, is on the YA shelves and not shelved in the same category as Faulkner's most nasty subjects. This is definitely an important book, one of a small handful that became instant classics when published during my lifetime so far.  Upsetting, but recommended to teens and older nonetheless.

The crocuses appeared in our yard, in February, and, mindful of Alice Walker, I put out the lawn furniture and pointedly spent a couple of happy hours with my cat, my sister in law, a book, a drink and the crocuses.  Mindful of Burnett, I also remembered to inhale several deep lungfuls of fresh air and cry out, "O, I can walk! I shall live forever!"

Loss and Gain: A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis :
The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is in this matter hardly less formidable than a Cosmic Sadist. The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed--might grow tired of his vile sport--might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have temporary fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice--The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God, or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren't.
Either way, we're for it.

A very short book of meditations about coping with the death of a loved one. This month, I endured the death of a family member and reached the first anniversary of the death of another.  I thought I'd just pick it up and zip through it in an hour or so, but it's not that kind of book. This is one where every word counts and must be considered. Imagine Marcus Aurelius or Pascal if every little nugget and snippet was the quality of their very best, and you have CS Lewis. It took me eight separate sessions of about ten pages each.

Lewis wrote this while actually mourning the death of his wife, with whom it's not hard to tell he was very, very close. You can see him progress from where he finally has come out of dazed shock enough to begin writing, through recreating Job's "Why me?" argument with God, to coming to some degree of peace, acceptance and reaffirmation of faith.  If there were more theologians like Chesterton and Lewis, and fewer like Dobson and Warren, I'd probably take religious ideas a lot more seriously than I do.

Plenty of Nothing: The World’s Illusion, by Jacob Wasserman  :
Weikhardt did not answer the question. As he talked on, his smooth, handsome, boyish face assumed the aspect of a quarrelsome old man's. Yet his voice remained gentle and slow, and his bearing phlegmatic. "Humanity today has lost its faith", he continued. "Faith has leaked out like water from a cracked glass. Our age is tyrannised by machinery: it is a mob rule without parallel. Who will save us from machinery and from business? The golden calf has gone mad. The spitir of man kowtows to a warehouse. Our watchword is to be up and doing. We manufacture Christianity, a renaissance, culture, et cetera. If it's not quite the real thing, yet it will serve. Everything tends toward the external--towards expression, line, arabesque, gesture, mask. Everything is stuck on a hoarding and lit by electric lamps. Everything is the very latest, until something still later begins to function. Thus the soul flees, goodness ceases, the form breaks, and reverence dies. Do you feel no horror at the generation that is growing up? The air is like that before the flood."

Only nominally a big thick novel, this one struck me more as a big thick set of chronological vignettes with the same characters and a common theme. Something self-contained happens over the course of a few pages, and then something else, and the first thing is likely as not never referred to again, nor do the events change the characters much, except for the protagonist.

The main story involves the protagonist's religious transformation from a basically decent son of a wealthy family, living in an absurd society, to a St. Francis character who gives his wealth away and attempts to live completely selflessly. The main theme, which The World's Illusion shares with  such other 20th century European classics as Hesse's Steppenwolf (book post July 2008) and Sartre's Nausea (book post, June 2009), is that everything on Earth is an illusion, that nothing we do or feel has any real value, that our whole earthly lives are pointless. Unlike Hesse and Sartre, Wasserman has religious, afterworldly overtones, so at least he has a context in which such a view makes some sense--I can see how it might give some comfort to those wretched masses whose lives are one long, unheard cry of agony.  However, for those of us with means to improve our lives--and if you have access to blogs and the leisure to read them, you are among that class--it reads like either nonsense or hatred.

Psi Cop: The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester  :
Explosion! Concussion! The cell doors burst open. And far outside, freedom is waiting in the cloak of darkness and flight into the unknown...
Who’s that? Who’s outside the cellblock? Oh God! Oh Christ! The Man With No Face! Looking. Looming. Silent. Run! Escape! Fly! Fly...
Fly through space. There’s safety in the solitude of this silver-lined launch jetting to the deeps of the distant unknown. ... The hatch door! Opening. But it can’t. Ther’s no one on this launch to swing it slowly, ominously...Oh God! The Man With No Face! Looking. Looming. Silent....
But I am innocent, your honor. Innocent! You will never prove my guilt, and I will never stop pleading my case though you pound the gavel until you deafen my ears and...Oh Christ! On the bench. In wig and gown. The Man With No Face! Looking. Looming. Silent. Quintessence of vengeance...

I was amused to find a novel about a guild of telepathic cops written by a guy named Alfred Bester. I guess J. Michael Straczynski was influenced by this book.  I was also amazed that The Demolished Man is apparently not famous on a level with, say, Frank Herbert or Ursula LeGuin. It kicks ass, as a sci fi masterpiece, a crime book and a psychological thriller all in one.

The Psi Cops of the Babylon-5 world raise plenty of questions about the ethics of being able to invade the thoughts of other people, to read minds, erase memories, induce psi pain. The "peepers" of The Demolished Man don’t seem to get there. The guild has a code of conduct comparable to Asimov’s laws of robotics: they can’t peep without permission, they can’t use their abilities for unfair material gain, such as in stock trading or gambling; and telepathic evidence is inadmissible in court. In fact a lot of peepers are healers or psychiatrists, and the populace is often found paying large sums to have their minds read, in an attitude of complete trust.  So when the main psi cop is called on to solve the first murder in several centuries, his options are quite limited compared to those of Walter Koenig’s Bester.

The murderer is known to the reader as such early on, and the narrative shifts between him and the psi cop. I’ve found that it is very, very difficult for a writer to pull off bringing the reader to both chase with the hounds and run with the hare, and Bester has succeeded more than any writer I’ve yet found in making one care about both sides of the chase, having given us both a criminal with a hint of goodness and an officer with more than an edge of nastiness.  Some books are so good that you can’t put them down; this one was so good that I forced myself to put it down, a chapter at a time, to avoid ending it too quickly.  Highest recommendations.

Ibo La Virus: Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe:
When nearly two years later Obierika paid another visit to his friend in exile the circumstances were less happy. The missionaries had come to Umuofia. They had built their church there, won a handful of converts and were already sending evangelists to the surrounding towns and villages. That was a source of great sorrow to the leaders of the clan; but many of them believed that the strange faith and the white man’s god would not last. None of his converts was a man whose word was heeded in the assembly of the people. None of them was a man of title. They were mostly the kind of people who were called efulefu, worthless, empty men. The imagery of an efulefu in the language of the clan was a man who sold his machete and wore the sheath to battle.  Chielo, the priestess of Agbala, called the converts the excrement of the clan, and the new faith was a mad dog that had come to eat it up.

The Color Purple contains a subplot about characters on a missionary visit to Africa, watching an indigenous culture destroyed by Christians and colonialists. Things Fall Apart, which claims to be the greatest novel written by a native African, tells a similar story from within the culture.

Okonkwo, the protagonist, is the mightiest warrior of the Ibo Clan, an economic success, a leader among the village council, and somewhat full of himself. In a culture that strives to balance masculine and feminine values, he is Macho Man through and through.  This results in domestic violence and other unnecessary conflict, and so Okonkwo is a bad man. Except that when the Christians and the white government come to destroy everything, Okonkwo is the only one with the strength to resist even somewhat effectively.  Maybe he is neither great nor terrible, but simply an ordinary human with greatnesses and flaws, like all others.

It’s a short book, and kind of so-so as a story. I found it most valuable as a study in a foreign culture affected by the Europeans in pretty much the way the Iriquois and Cherokee were affected by white Americans.

The Hate Boat: Republican Gomorrah, by Max Blumenthal :
Huckabee continued his speech by reminding pastors that the next generation was seething with sin. "We've gone from Leave It To Beaver to Beavis and Butthead", he said. "From a time when teachers carried paddles and ruled the halls to now, where kids carry guns and teachers are afraid." The only way to heal the nation's pain, Huckabee proclaimed, was to mete it out to the young rebellious ones. Again, he channeled Dobson. "Yes, I do believe that the old fashioned ways of discipline are good ones," he remarked with a wry smile. "I was the recipient of quite a few. I tell people, my father was the most patriotic man I think I knew. Utter patriotism. He laid on the stripes; I saw stars. True American Patriotism!" For the first time, Huckabee's enraptured audience burst into spontaneous applause.
Just as his surge in the polls began, Huckabee addressed the student body of the late Reverend Falwell's Liberty University. There, he assured his star struck audience that his sudden rise was evidence of a holy annointing. "There's only one explanation for [my surge] and it's not a human one," Huckabee insisted, inspiring thunderous applause from the overflow crowd. "It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of five thousand people."
Huckabee made this remarkable statement in response to a question from a student, not a reporter. Political reporters with access to the candidate shied away from asking him pointed questions about his theological beliefs, focusing instead on what New York Times political correspondent Adam Nagourney called his "easygoing self-effacing, jaunty style." Times liberal commentator Frank Rich likened Huckabee to Barack Obama, writing, "both men aspire...to avoid the hyper-partisanship of the Clinton-Bush era." With its emotional yearning for postpartisan heroes, the national press corps gave Huckabee all the cover he needed. He would thus remain the "affable", bass playing Republican counterpart to Obama, not the sectarian ideologue he truly was.

If I've been more politically heavy-handed than usual in unlikely places this month, it's because I was reading Blumenthal's book alongside the others.  And because people, knowing only what the complacent media tells them, still do not get it.

There have been liberal-to-moderate Republican politicians. People like Christie Whitman, Colin Powell, the Chafees, Wayne Gilchrest. People a liberal Democrat could work with.  And there have been conservative Republicans who were opponents to the left, but who at least had fully functional brains, played square, and you could trust to keep their word and to have America's interests at heart, even if you disagreed with them. People like Dick Armey, Alan Simpson, Bob Dole, the old John McCain, the old Newt, even Dick Cheney was part of that conservative old guard.

Both categories of Republicans are GONE. They don't exist in the political arena right now, and I don't see them coming back.  They've either been thrown out by teabag primary challenges in safe red districts, thrown out by moderates disgusted with the whole GOP in swing districts, retired in disgust, switched to Democrat or Libertarian or Independent, or drank the kool-aid and remade themselves from persons of integrity into doubletalk puppets of the fringe religious right, like Newt and McCain.

And the Edward Arnold figure pulling the strings is not Sarah Palin. It's not Beck. It isn't even Limbaugh. It's James Dobson.  As Blumenthal shows, Dobson's "Focus on The Family" organization has nothing to do with American nuclear families. It's about a shady K-Street lobbying group called "The Family" that has more in common with the Corleone and Soprano families than with the Waltons and the Cleavers.  And they're not all Republicans, either. Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat who made health insurance reform into the most restrictive antiabortion law since the Hyde Amendment, is a proud member of The Family.

Republican Gomorrah documents the fringe right takeover of the GOP from the John Birch Society to the teabaggers. The manifesto of RJ Rushdoony. The rise of talk radio. The endless donations from the likes of Richard Mellon Scaife and Howard Ahmanson, the compliance of big media in portraying people as wholesome who preach murder of those not in their own sect, and as patriotic who seek to bring about the End Times at the expense of Earth.

I was prepared for political hardball stories, corruption and dirty tricks. Those have been around since before I was born, and discoverable since the Internet became widespread.  What I was not prepared for was the endless parade of drugs, pornography, child abuse and violent sexual practices running through the lives of so many of the religious right's leaders, preachers, pundits and politicians, from Ted Haggard to Diaper Dave Vitter to Mark Foley, Larry Craig, Jeff Gannon, Tony Perkins and a certain assistant director of the Washington State Republican Party named Ted Bundy (Blumenthal parallels the Dobsonists' efforts to obtain clemency for Bundy and other "Christian" murderers with their cmapaigns to expedite the death penalty in the name of God for nonChristian murderers). Often the victims of child abuse themselves, they indulge in sadomasochistic practices that I had to skin through as they were described. And I'm not ordinarily squeamish. Their fetishes are on a whole different level from what I've encountered on the left. Where liberal homosexuals, for example, are accepting of their identity and put their efforts into obtaining equal treatment under the law, Dobsonist homosexuals have been taught to loathe themselves, to repress their identity, and to be terrified of the consequences should they be caught. Hence the channeling of their energies into violent rages, the worship of authoritarian father figures who promise discipline, and the harshness with which they condemn other people for the same behavior that they themselves indulge in secretly.

If you have a higher ed degree, if you respect science over faith-based "knowledge", if you are not a Christian, if you're LGBTQ, if you're liberal, green or support women's equal rights, you need to read Republican Gomorrah for your protection, because it is you who they are trying to disenfranchise and worse (just before I typed this, Glen Beck publicly called for the "eradication" of progressives).  If you're Christian and intellectual, or conservative on, say, economic issues, you need to read it too, look at who claims to speak for you and what they're saying in public and amongst themselves, and make no mistake about where you stand. You need to point to the Dobsonists and say "THIS IS NOT WHO I AM", if indeed they are not who you are. And you must either resist the Republican party or reclaim it from the Dobsonists. Because the one bit of good news for liberals, according to Blumenthal, is that the Dobsonists are too small to win elections alone, and not smart enough or sane enough to fool a majority alone.    Faint praise for the Democrats, but the biggest thing they've got going for them right now, and the biggest reason they may come out ahead this November after all is that, no matter how infuriatingly incompetent they are, the other side remains far, far worse.

Originally posted to AdmiralNaismith on Wed Mar 03, 2010 at 07:34 AM PST.

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Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

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